Big East volleyball coaches put a big target on Creighton’s back Monday, coach Kirsten Bernthal Booth said, picking the Bluejays to finish first in the league this fall.
“Fortunately, I feel this team can step up to this pressure, but we will need to be ready to play night in and night out because we know we are going to be getting everyone’s best shot,” Booth said.
It marks the first time a Creighton team has been picked to win a title in any Big East sport, as well as the first time the Bluejay volleyball program has been picked to win any league.
Booth said being picked first is great recognition, especially since the Big East is a strong volleyball conference, just like the Missouri Valley.
Creighton received seven of a possible eight first-place votes and 63 points in the coaches poll. Coaches are not allowed to vote for their own team.
Marquette received the two remaining first-place votes and was second with 57 points. Xavier (50), Seton Hall (38), St. John’s (36), Butler (26), Villanova (25), DePaul (16) and Georgetown (13) followed.
CU picked up an additional honor with junior middle blocker Kelli Browning being chosen as the preseason co-player of the year.
Browning and outside hitters Melanie Jereb and Leah McNary were chosen for the preseason All-Big East squad. Marquette’s Elizabeth Koberstein shared co-player of the year accolades with Browning.
Booth said the honor was no surprise after Browning’s outstanding sophomore season.
The honorable mention All-American was the MVC defensive player of the year. She tied for the national lead with 204 blocks, and set CU single-season records for block assists, total blocks and hitting percentage.
“I know Kelli continues to motivate herself to get better every day, so although I’m sure she is humbled by this recognition, she is focused on moving her play and her team’s play forward to accomplish the team goals they set out at the beginning of the season,” Booth said.
Creighton, which is ranked No. 25 in the AVCA preseason poll, returns four starters and nine letterwinners from last year’s team that went 29-4 and finished first in the MVC with a 17-1 mark.
The Bluejays open Friday against No. 13 BYU at the Hampton Inn Invitational in Bowling Green, Ohio. Marquette and Bowling Green also are in the field.